Drought conditions can lead to health issues in livestock

Shannon Marvel smarvel@aberdeennews.com
Farm Forum

Extremely dry conditions can lead to more respiratory problems in livestock, according to the state veterinarian.

“Respiratory illnesses are a concern especially if you’re in an area that’s not getting rainfall,” Dustin Oedekoven said in a phone interview this week.

Russ Daly, South Dakota State University Extension veterinarian, said dusty conditions can compromise a calf’s immune system and lead to problems like “dust pneumonia.”

“The main problems you worry about with drought conditions is dust and dust doesn’t cause pneumonia by itself, but it really stirs up all the mechanisms all the calves and other animals need to keep out of the respiratory tract,” Daly said by phone.

“I’ve heard some stories of some dust issues in calves that people are perceiving.”

Water conditions when it’s dry can also cause health problems in livestock and lead to poor performance in cattle, he said.

“Poor water quality can contribute to their general unthriftiness, especially with cows and their ability to nurse their calf,” Daly said.

“Lack of water and lack of feed — those would be the two things that would make cows dry up and stop producing much milk. Then the calves pretty much have to wean themselves. Most area producers are doing the best they can to take care of what cattle they have left.”

Daly said symptoms of respiratory issues in livestock might not be overt at first and can include fever, slowness in calves and droopy ears.

“But it will progress to the hard breathing and coughing,” he said. “The first thing people will see is the calves won’t appear to be as thrifty and active.”

No problems with neglect

Oedekoven said he hasn’t heard of an uptick in complaint or neglect cases due to the drought.

While there is a shortage of grass and water in some areas, ranchers are coping by selling cattle when necessary, as opposed to not taking care of them, Oedekoven said.

“I think most ranchers are managing appropriately and if they don’t have the grass or feed available they are making those marketing decisions,” he said.

On average, the state Animal Industry Board gets 100 to 110 neglect complaints a year. Of those complaints, fewer than 10 percent are confirmed, Oedekoven said.

“A majority of those are on equine,” he said. “Often times the complaint will be made by two parties that aren’t getting along for some reasons and those complaints end up not being warranted. In the 10 percent or so where we find neglect, most of those can be resolved with education. In the case of horses, it’s separating old horses from younger horses or consulting on a proper nutrition plan.”

Follow @smarvel_AAN on Twitter.

Livestock and agronomy meetings

South Dakota State University Extension will host livestock and agronomy meetings Thursday in Herreid and Gettysburg:

• The meeting in Herreid will be at 9 a.m. at the community center, 107 S. Main St.

• The meeting in Gettysburg will be at 2 p.m. at Bob’s Steakhouse, 29336 U.S. Highway 212.

Meeting topics include:

• Early weaning of calves and the effect on cow and calf performance.

• Grazing annual forages, how to get them established and the added value they might offer.

• Economic resources in the form of budget calculators and other tools.

• Weather outlook for fall months.

Producers with concerns about nitrates in annual forages or water quality are encouraged to take samples to the meetings to to be tested.

The programs are free and early registration is not required.